Wednesday, May 29, 2002, Chandigarh, India


M A I N   N E W S

Narayanan open to second term
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, May 28
President K. R. Narayanan has an “open mind” for a second term.

Mr Narayanan is understood to have conveyed this to Congress President Sonia Gandhi when she called on him this evening to inform him of her party’s decision to back him. During their 20-minute one-to-one meeting, she told the President that her party favoured a second term for him.

This is the first firm indication on the presidential elections from the Congress which had earlier indicated its preference for Mr Narayanan but had not said anything on the issue officially.

At its meeting last week, the Congress Working Committee had authorised Mrs Gandhi to take all decisions regarding the election of the next President.

Describing Mr Narayanan as “one of the exceptionally good Presidents”, the Congress had all along maintained that it was waiting for a word from Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee on the issue. Though the coming presidential election had been “informally” discussed at the May 19 meeting between Mr Vajpayee and Mrs Gandhi, it was mainly focussed on responding to the threat of cross-border terrorism. Mr Vajpayee, who initiated efforts to evolve a consensus on the choice of the next President, had told Mrs Gandhi that another meeting would be held to discuss the issue.

With the Congress having declared its support for Mr Narayanan today and the Left parties and Samajwadi Party having already declared their support for him, Mr Narayanan has emerged as the choice of the Opposition. At a meeting last week, SC/ST members of Parliament had also extended their support to him.

Congress sources said while thanking Mrs Gandhi for her party’s support, Mr Narayanan told her that he would prefer a consensus among political parties on his name. Other issues of national importance were also believed to have been discussed by the Congress President with Mr Narayanan.

Today’s decision by the Congress has now put the ball in the NDA’s court. The NDA, which has not shown enthusiasm for Mr Narayanan’s candidature so far, would now have to decide its choice for the next President.

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